7 Mistakes Guest Bloggers Make
At best, guest posts offer readers a different perspective and the blogger-in-chief a breather from producing blog posts. At worst, theyre robotic dribble filled with spammy links. In the past several months, Ive gotten so many guest post pitches in the latter camp that Ive stopped accepting outside posts while I regroup and rethink the process (next weeks guest post is a notable exception). Apologies to those of you whove pitched me guest posts recently, but I suspect you dont actually read this blog, and I feel a responsibility to those who do read it to maintain a certain level of professionalism and originality.
Heres a list of mistakes Ive seen again and again in guest post pitches. Some of these are applicable to freelancers pitching to magazines and websites, but hopefully none of you, my dear regular readers, are committing any of these faux pas.
- Not following directions. I have a page on my blog that clearly outlines my guest posting process, yet someone emails me asking if I accept guest posts at least once a day. When youre pitching a website, magazine, or blog, take a moment to click around the site and see if they have a submissions page or a writers guidelines page. Youll save yourself and your editor a lot of time and frustration. Then follow the instructions to the letter. For instance, my guidelines suggest sending a specific idea and formatting your email subject in a certain way. I dont have time for a lengthy email exchange in which I ask a series about you and your idea (and Im guessing editors at websites and magazines dont either), so just tell me what you want to write about and why youre qualified to write about it. Dont expect me to brainstorm for you when I dont even know you or your writing.
- Pitching off topic. If I had a dollar for every email pitching me a guest post about life insurance/pest control/luxury travel/online degrees/penile enhancements well, you get the idea. A magazine for dog-lovers in Boise does not want your article about how to buy cheap printer ink, just as my blog does not need guest posts on any of the aforementioned topics. Know what your target publication covers and pitch an idea that fits that audience and their needs. Occasionally Ill get a guest post thats kinda sorta almost a fit for my blog but it misses the mark because it keeps referring to my readers as business-owners or entrepreneurs. Well, yes, freelancers are business-owners and entrepreneurs, but those arent the terms Id typically use because freelancer is more specific. What terms does your target publication use?
- Relying on generalities. Of the guest post submissions that actually cover freelancing, many of them fall into the trap of generality (and yes, before I cracked down on guest posts, some of them appeared on this blog and still do because Im too nice to delete them). They rehash the same tired service topics and listicles weve seen on every other freelance writing blog. And often the advice is as generic as the topics themselves. Use anecdotes and examples to illustrate your tips (for instance, I once had a client who ___, so I ____ and the result was ____ ) and choose colorful language to keep readers engaged.
- Writing like a robot. Again, read the website/blog/magazine youre pitching, then try to match the editorial voice of that publication. I welcome guest bloggers whose voice differs from mine, but too often, they dont even have a voice. Theyll write sentences in passive voice with lots of flabby, over-blown language like It is generally recommended that business owners typically choose to examine their business and management strategies several times a year in order to achieve the best outcomes. Say what? For most service pieces, its fine to use you (or the implied you) and speak directly to the reader. And dont use 15 words when you could get your point across in five.
- Resisting edits. When I publish a guest post, it reflects on the guest poster and on me. I reserve the right to edit posts (perhaps adding a snappier title or smoothing some transitions), but I try to make it a collaborative process and get the contributors OK on revisions. Some pull a Houdini and disappear, while others demand to know, diva-style, how dare you edit my writing? For those who typically contribute to content mills, revisions might be a foreign concept, but it makes both of us look better. If something is unclear to me, its likely to unclear to some of my readers. If something reads like broken English to me, Im probably not the only one.
- Following up a zillion times a day. Sorry, but when I get an email thats not even addressed to my name, I dont always feel obligated to respond. Sometimes that results in a flurry of increasingly frustrated follow-up emails. That energy would be so much more productive if it were channeled into researching blogs instead of blindly pitching. Also, when you contribute to someones blog, you dont get to dictate when your post appears. If you write something worth publishing, and I tell you, thanks for this! Ill get back to you on scheduling, it does not give you license to demand that it run that week or ask multiple times a week when it will run. Checking in once a week is plenty. In the meantime, you might research other blogs or brainstorm other guest post ideas.
- Disappearing once the post appears. If youve written a really good guest post, its likely my readers will have comments or questions. Stick around and engage with them. Tweet your post. Thank your host. Ive found that so few guest bloggers do this, but it really makes a good impression when they do. Likewise, if youre writing for a magazine, dont go AWOL once the article appears and you cash your check.